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Old 4th October 2012, 16:31   #1
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Default Driving Jaguars at the Buddh International Circuit

Team-BHP was invited for a track experience with the current crop of Jaguar road cars last weekend. JLR had organised the event for their current & prospective customers over a three day period. The second half of the final day was for the media.

I'd not been around a fully blown race track all my life, let alone driving on one. This weekend was going to be special, popping your track cherry always is

After an early flight and a rather long drive from the Delhi Airport, we finally arrived at the famed Buddh International Circuit, definitely the most iconic venue for any Indian motorsport enthusiast. As I got out of our car, I first heard and then saw a blue XKR-S whiz around us to arrive at the main straight...this afternoon was going to be exciting indeed.

I lounged around the paddock area just above the pit lane and looked over in awe. The track is just something else.

Driving Jaguars at the Buddh International Circuit-dsc01092-large.jpg

It's all so quiet and then, out of nowhere, you hear a roaring motor planted in a swoopy shell go past you, flat out in top gear!



Around this time, I bumped into Ayab who has very recently joined Jaguar India’s technical team. Del Sehmar (PR and Communications Manager, Jaguar Land Rover) invited the entire media team over for lunch as we had about 90 minutes before our track session.

Once done with lunch, we proceeded towards the pit lane assembly area. Del & Lawrence then briefed us about track etiquette for the session.

The group I belonged to had its activities cut out as follows:
  • XJL guided laps
  • XFS dynamic driving
  • Hot laps with a professional driver
  • XFS guided laps
  • XKR-S drive

Last edited by Rehaan : 6th October 2012 at 22:57.
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Old 4th October 2012, 19:23   #2
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Default Re: Jaguar Experience at the Buddh International Circuit

Lawrence, a seasoned instructor, took our group of 8 aside and further segregated it into two groups of 4 each. We proceeded for the guided laps in the XJL, whilst the others were taken by Ross for the XFS dynamic driving session.

I insisted my partner take the wheel first as I wanted to get familiar with the machinery before having a whole hearted go at it. I walked towards the 1st car parked behind the instructor's ride as I wanted to watch him closely (braking points, racing line etc.) Each XJL had a radio via which the instructor would guide us through the lap. My partner was a light footed driver which was a blessing in disguise, I managed to get a decent video of his drive!



After two sweet laps around the circuit (now somewhat familiar territory), I was eager to get into the driver’s seat. A whole bunch of seat & steering adjustments later, I was all set to maintain the three car length distance Lawrence had instructed us to maintain. He insisted that we stick right behind him to keep an eye of what he was doing, and where he was going. It was superlatively heartening that the track team wanted us to go all out, rather than a ‘drive around the park’ experience.

I slotted the gear lever into "D" and we slowly emerged out of the pit lane. Into a couple of corners and I was already starting to get comfortable with the massive XJL. It's external dimensions were long forgotten and I kept the focus on the line Lawrence was taking.

Driving Jaguars at the Buddh International Circuit-dsc_2244-large.jpg

The sequential gearshifts did not feel as quick as the DSG box that I’m used to, yet weren't slow either. After having been through a hard morning session, the XJL's brakes still felt nice. There was adequate feedback from a driver's perspective. Soon enough, we were into the second section of the track which involved a lot of tyre squealing...sometimes, going sideways for a brief moment. Still, there was never a moment of nervousness and I was glad I could keep up with the pace car without slowing down the chain's progress.

Going down the main straight was definitely the most yawn moment through the lap and I couldn’t wait to start gunning into the first corner, this time with a lot more confidence. Lawrence upped the pace on this lap and I was easily 30% more aggressive into the corners, late braking and even following the pace car’s line a shade better. Through with the second lap, it was time to head back into the pit lane. A pity as I was just starting to relish the track fun I'd always read about.

Last edited by GTO : 6th October 2012 at 16:49.
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Old 4th October 2012, 19:49   #3
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Default Re: Jaguar Experience at the Buddh International Circuit

As we parked our cars, we were greeted by a very enthusiastic Ross who was going to drive us to a small track at the back. This was for the "dynamics program" in a Jaguar XF-S.

The dynamics program was fairly straight forward. The route was a smaller rectangular circuit where we had to drive through slalom curves, then stand on the brakes at the end of the straight. Ross mentioned that the slalom had been calculated at 50 kph; any speed over that would have us throwing a cone over. He also mentioned how there was only one displaced cone all weekend and he really wanted us to keep the score at that.

Ross first gave us a quick demo, after which each driver had 2 laps of the slalom.



I was among the first drivers to take on the slalom. There wasn’t much for me to mess up, or so I thought. On both my return laps, I missed a gate as I failed to locate the highlighted route between the cones. Braking at the end of the straights was really strong, requiring super judgement, ABS kicking in and all. There was zilch nose dive and the car stopped almost in the same place as I braked on all four occasions.

Last edited by GTO : 6th October 2012 at 16:59.
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Old 5th October 2012, 17:25   #4
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Default Re: Jaguar Experience at the Buddh International Circuit

Driving Jaguars at the Buddh International Circuit-manmeet-soni-large.jpg

Next, we proceeded for the hot lap session with a race driver. Del had waitlisted me for a lap with no other than Narain Karthikeyan!!! I'd seen him drive around the track in a red XFR. Boy, was this going to be fun! We were asked to gear up with the lids as this was expected to be a crazy experience!

I chose the left side of the rear bench to get a clear view of Narain doing what he does best. The crew double checked on us for being buckled up. Then yet again, the humble Narain checked if all of us were belted up before he took us for a fun flight around the Buddh.

Driving Jaguars at the Buddh International Circuit-dsc01105-large.jpg

No chance holding a video camera in hand with Narain behind the wheel, so I didn't even attempt to. Within moments, we were out of the pit lane, Narain gunning it out of the first corner. The way he used every inch of the track through corners was sheer brilliance. God-like late braking, slow in and fast outs were the norm. The V8 motor was going all out with the 503 horses at full chant. The second half of the track is pretty much a drifter’s paradise. Narain made it a point to push it hard here. On a couple of occasions, I thought we were going to lose it. Some lightning quick steering & pedal inputs later, the master had straightened out the XFR back on the track.

The second was a cool down lap, thus we had a chance to chat with Narain. It was heart-warming to see someone of his stature gel with us regular mortals with keen interest. Narain won another fan that Sunday!

Last edited by GTO : 6th October 2012 at 17:21.
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Old 5th October 2012, 18:12   #5
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Default Re: Jaguar Experience at the Buddh International Circuit

By now, it was only 4 out of our group of 8 waiting for a drive in the XF-S. Our instructor for this session - Russel - took us to the two ready & waiting XF-S’ parked nearby. The format was just like that of the XJL sessions. Two drivers out for two laps, back into the pit lane and then swap seats with their respective passengers.

This time around, there was zilch hesitation in me. The excitement from the XJL drive meant I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the wheel. I decided to drive first and possibly get some track footage later with my partner driving.

Driving Jaguars at the Buddh International Circuit-dsc01102-large.jpg

As we were exiting the pit lane, misfortune struck! The session had been temporarily red flagged. Apparently, an ill-mannered media person parked the car he was driving by the track to get some pictures. This was a waste of crucial track time! Track authorities are known to be disciplinarians who shut down track activities as per a strict schedule. Our group could barely wait to head out of the pit lane. It took 20 minutes for the track team to clear the mess up and have our session going again.

Driving Jaguars at the Buddh International Circuit-dsc01113-large.jpg

Russel guided us out of the pit lane, insisting we have a fast exciting drive. He urged both drivers to stick right behind him, as close as we could. I put my head down into it. We followed him all over the first section of the track. I was now familiar with the braking points from my laps in the XJL, and able to recall the track as if I was a regular here.

Despite the weight advantage, the XF-S was distinctly slower than the XJL through the first section (the faster part of the circuit). Even the gearshifts were slower than the XJL, the lag being more pronounced. The power output of the XJL must have been making up for the lag, I guess. We were soon into the fun 2nd section of the track, and this is exactly where the XF-S was a lot better to drive. The XF-S, due to its smaller size, was easier to flex over curves and my brief experience was helping me push the car to its limit. At the end of the first lap, Russel indicated that we were going into the pit lane. I thought the fun was coming to an end again but, to my pleasant surprise, he just wanted to swap his car!

Driving Jaguars at the Buddh International Circuit-dsc_2260-large.jpg

Quickly enough, Russel was back in another XJL and we were out on track again. Russel was perhaps cruising right in front of me in the XJL, but I was having to work the XF-S hard to keep up with him. In a short while, we were back into the second section of the track, the XF-S taking the corners with lesser effort than the larger XJL. My co-passenger had a couple of nail-biting moments, I’m just glad he held it all together through the two laps. We then entered the pit lane to swap seats. Unfortunately, they decided to skip the balance part of the XF-S session as we were running out of time and the light might get bad. The Jaguar team really wanted us to have a go in the XKR-S while we had a chance! This meant no driving footage of the XF-S for you guys, and no XF-S drive for my co-passenger. Damn!

Last edited by Rehaan : 6th October 2012 at 22:56.
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Old 5th October 2012, 19:07   #6
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Default Re: Jaguar Experience at the Buddh International Circuit

Driving Jaguars at the Buddh International Circuit-dsc01108-large.jpg

Since my partner had missed driving the XF-S, I gladly urged him to be the first one in the XKR-S. Someone else mentioned that the XKR-Ss had their brakes shot and we should be taking it easy, especially on the straights. Nothing serious, but being cautious wouldn't hurt as such.

We were out on the track soon, my partner driving his heart out. His experience was now beginning to show. We had been in a similar specc'ed car with Narain, but this drive as a co-passenger wasn’t any less exciting. The throaty exhaust note of the two XKR-Ss filled up the circuit. Driving in the dusk with the headlamps switched on made for a surreal experience. The slow in, fast outs were so perfectly balanced in the XKR-S, this car was obviously built to be pushed! With no signs of strain on the XKR-S, my partner could nearly pass off as a club racer.

Driving Jaguars at the Buddh International Circuit-dsc_2248-large.jpg

The corners required far lesser effort. The car powered out with crisp responses and there was noticeably lesser drama in the second section of the track. Soon, we were on the main straight where my partner had grounded the throttle at well over 200 kph. Still, everything seemed to pass by so slow that I could sit out and count the number of states in our country. It was that ‘safe like a vault’ feeling whilst driving the XKR-S on track. Everything is so well controlled that you don't feel edgy about pushing the car to its very limit!



Into the second lap, we saw flashing red lights...an indication of the session closing down. Russel came on the radio and said that the session had been red flagged due to bad light, and we should now head into the pit lane in cool down mode. It was time to call it a day.

Driving Jaguars at the Buddh International Circuit-dsc01120-large.jpg

While we parked our XKR-S by the side, we noticed the other cars being taken into pit garages by the Jaguar personnel. These guys do track days for a living, what a blessed life they have! I chatted up with a couple of instructors and they were really curious to know how the track day was for us. Some enthusiastic chats later, it was time to thank them and leave for the airport.

Driving Jaguars at the Buddh International Circuit-dsc01122-large.jpg

Disclaimer : Jaguar invited Team-BHP for the track day. They covered all the expenses for this driving event.

Last edited by Rehaan : 6th October 2012 at 22:56.
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Old 6th October 2012, 18:16   #7
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Default Re: Driving Jaguars at the Buddh International Circuit

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Supercars & Imports Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 7th October 2012, 01:12   #8
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OT: Why Jaguar is trying to publicize its brand and that too by promoting driving on Buddh international circuit? I believe, Jaguar is one of the luxury brand. Yes i agree that they do make some sports cars, however their brand's first preference is Luxury. A company like Ferrari, Mclauren should do these kinda activities. There is nothing wrong in doing but, will they add any value to their brand after spending so much?

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Old 7th October 2012, 01:46   #9
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Default Re: Driving Jaguars at the Buddh International Circuit

Quote:
Originally Posted by gemi_kk View Post
OT: Why Jaguar is trying to publicize its brand and that too by promoting driving on Buddh international circuit?
Gemi_kk, the answer lies in the fact that none of us would have had a first hand account of the performance and feel of these machines had they not organised this session. Any awareness among prospective buyers/general public is money well spent for a brand. I would think this is much better than getting associated with a celebrity or putting up hoardings all over the place, especially for a luxury brand. Celebrities and conventional publicities might work wonders for regular brands aiming to sell mass numbers. Just my opinion, others may disagree.

@Manson, very crisp and well written account of your track day mate! The growl of the XKR-S is to die for
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Old 7th October 2012, 03:43   #10
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Default Re: Driving Jaguars at the Buddh International Circuit

Wow ! This is indeed dream come to true. You guys are so lucky. I can imagine how much fun it would have been sitting behind Narain and going through those corners. I am feeling so jealous now :(


Quote:
Originally Posted by gemi_kk View Post

OT: Why Jaguar is trying to publicize its brand and that too by promoting driving on Buddh international circuit?... will they add any value to their brand after spending so much?
I think this was organised for couple of reasons
  • Creating brand awareness in India
  • Reviving Jaguar brand as a sports luxury car and create some buzz for their new stunning F-type sports car
  • Making existing cutomers more 'privileged' by offering them these events and ensuring they remain the Jaguar future buyers
  • lastly TATA pushing for it
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Old 7th October 2012, 07:37   #11
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Default Re: Driving Jaguars at the Buddh International Circuit

Wow, that was awesome! Like many of my fellow countrymen, it is my dream too to get to drive on this awesome circuit. It seems that you had a blast out there at the BIC with the leaping cats for company.

The live snaps of the cars shot from somewhere on the track were brilliant and are wallpaper stuff. How did you manage to get those shots? Did they allow the media to get out on the track to shoot cars in action?
Quote:
Originally Posted by gemi_kk View Post
OT: Why Jaguar is trying to publicize its brand and that too by promoting driving on Buddh international circuit? I believe, Jaguar is one of the luxury brand. Yes i agree that they do make some sports cars, however their brand's first preference is Luxury. A company like Ferrari, Mclauren should do these kinda activities. There is nothing wrong in doing but, will they add any value to their brand after spending so much?
In my opinion, customers plonking their money into these type of brands (Jaguar & Land Rover included) expect a lot in return. To keep them happy and satisfied, companies organize these type of events where the owners get to push the cars and understand what they are really capable of. You normally wouldn't go flat out or corner as hard in the open roads as you would do on the track. So, these are days in which not only the brand image is built, but the customers also decide whether to stay with the brand for their next car or not. Audi did it, Mercedes-Benz did it and I guess BMW also did something similar, then why not Jaguar?
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Old 7th October 2012, 13:51   #12
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Fantastic experience Manson, and well described too. We all lived it through your eyes. Hope you get to experience the XK RS soon. It was like you enjoyed the spread and were unfortunately denied the delectable dessert at the end.

Would love to see a BIC shoot out between all the 'racing' street cars: the XK RS, an M5, and a Maserati maybe. And the A5, one of the Mercedes AMGs too, since this will remain a wish list.
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Old 7th October 2012, 15:16   #13
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Default Re: Driving Jaguars at the Buddh International Circuit

Lovely narration of the event. And getting a chance to be driven by Narain K was a God-sent opportunity.

Looks like this event was far more exciting than the one at the Paris Motor Show last month. After all, getting a chance to drive several Jags is far more blissful than being driven in Jags.
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Old 8th October 2012, 11:16   #14
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Default Re: Driving Jaguars at the Buddh International Circuit

arv, rohit, gupta,
Hmmm... now i could see a better picture. Yes Merc did it and audi did it. Even mahindra did it (if i am not wrong). so, why not Jaguar?

Now it would be intresting to see (if any) increase in sales of jaguar cars in india.
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Old 10th October 2012, 11:41   #15
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Despite the fact that Jaguar are a luxury car maker and they dont need to "go out there" to get customers, in todays market everyone wants to sell more. I doubt that the thinking still exists where customers will come to you. Hence jaguar find it as important to connect with the customers (probable and existing) as Audi, Mercedes and BMW. On top of it all, Indians are really getting into their luxury cars. Its good to have events like this so people get to know more about Jag's products.

After the slump Jag suffered before, they have really come back in a strong way. Huge profits recorded last year and they are climbing their way back to being close to the top.

Just my two cents worth!
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